The World in One Country – Welcome to Bosnia and Herzegovina

by Amela Trokic

The dream vacation – does it include the pyramids in Egypt? The Amazon forest? What about architecture from fallen empires or analyzing religious art from various faiths? Maybe it’s a Seaside voyage or even an expedition of famous sites that changed the face of mankind’s history? The world has so much to offer, but what if you could have it all in one tiny country? Welcome to Bosnia and Herzegovina! Volunteer abroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina to experience diversity like nowhere else on the planet. 

Castle in Bosnia

Castle in Bosnia

Bosnia is a country spanning an area of less than 52,000 km2 with a population of just under four million citizens. Lacking in size and strength, it falls behind the majority of its European neighbors in most criteria mainly due to its tumultuous past. However, despite the difficulties this country has been faced with it has come far from its war torn days and despite popular myth it is one of the safest places to volunteer abroad. So how can it be, that a country so small and off the radar that most people haven’t even heard of it can have everything a volunteer could wish for? Simple; big things come in small packages, travel size so to speak.

Bosnian Pyramids, What?

‘The Pyramid of the Sun’ is the name given to the Visočica hill near the remains of the Old Town of Visoko. Some archeologists believe that the hill itself is a pyramid based on its shape as well as tunnels, ancient mortar, and stone blocks found nearby. Although excavation has been happening on and off since the discovery, many believe that the Pyramid of the Sun can be the largest and oldest man-made pyramid in the world. Theories state that four nearby hills hold the same fate as Visočica; pyramids in disguise. This is a fascinating place to volunteer abroad in archaeology. 

European ‘Rainforest‘

Rainforest? Not quite, but almost. Bosnia is home to Perućica, one of the last remaining primeval (old-growth) forests in all of Europe. So while it may not be the Amazon rainforest it is the closest you will get in Europe. It's not immune to threat though, so this is the ideal spot to find a volunteer placement in conservation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Great Empires and Religious Diversity – Show Me Ruins!

The region known as Bosnia was home to some of Europe’s oldest civilizations which can be traced back as far as the New Stone Age. Its cultural heritage has been inherited from six historical civilizations and today it is home to three main ethnic groups. So where does that leave you? Architecture can be found from the medieval times, the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian rule and even from the communist period. Castles, forts/fortresses and other fortifications outnumber the populations of smaller villages with nearly every town having its own ‘royal’ mark. Some of the world’s most famous bridges are also found in Bosnia including the Mostar Bridge ,which is one of Bosnia’s many UNESCO heritage sites, as well as the Bridge on the Drina River eternalized in the Noble Prize winning Novel ‘The Bridge on the Drina’ by Bosnian author Ivo Andric. If all of this sounds appealing to you, you can find a volunteer placement in historic preservation. 

Mostar Bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar Bridge

Religious architecture further enhances Bosnia’s cultural heritage and diversity. From Mosques, Churches and Synagogues all within walking distance in Sarajevo to the many more scattered all over the country, Bosnia is bursting with variety. Then there are the catacombs, underground churches, Jewish heritage sites, monasteries, Medjugorje: home of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, The Blagaj Tekija, and much more. If you have some repenting to do, Bosnia is just the place for you to relinquish your burdens.

The architectural range of this beautiful country can be seen by walking down a single street with influences from various periods able to fit in the frame of a single photo. Lovers of heritage will never be bored while volunteering abroad in Bosnia, whose smallest villages even offer examples of its historical and cultural beauty.

But What Significance Does Bosnia Have in World History?

Okay, so Bosnia has a cute history and cultural heritage, it has some nice natural sites and lots of pretty buildings and … ? You might be asking yourself, ‘why haven’t I heard of Bosnia before if it’s so great, where was it during some of the world’s greatest historical events, and what does it offer the history lover?’

Well, what about the final catalyst that led to the start of WWI? Some people might know that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo, Bosnia and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back leading to the beginning of WWI. But do you know why? Well for Bosnia, that’s why! Gavrilo Princip, leader of the terrorist organization the Black Hand assassinated the Duke in an attempt to ensure Bosnia’s independence from the Astro-Hungarian Empire. Guess he never expected to get the whole world involved. Today, the very site of the Duke’s assassination can be visited.

On a much more tragic note, Bosnia also houses some of Europe’s most gruesome concentration and rape camps as a result of the Bosnian War of the early 90s. In Srebrenica, the site of the former UN safe Zone which was infiltrated leading to the genocide, can also be visited. Regrettably, Bosnia happens to be home to Europe’s greatest shame since the Holocaust of WWII. It’s not the ‘significant moment in History’ Bosnia wants to be remembered for but it is the reality. 

Neum, Bosnia


I’d Rather Relax By the Sea … Bet Bosnia Can’t Offer Me A Beach Side Vacation

Wrong! The town of Neum happens to be right on the Adriatic Sea offering sandy beaches, numerous hotels, and more bang for your buck than Bosnia’s neighboring seaside countries. What’s more, Neum also has a vast archeological history and a drive of only a few kilometers inland offers wilderness and developing agricultural volunteer projects.

So what’s the best part of Bosnia’s many diverse volunteer opportunities? Remember how small Bosnia is, well that means that one trip to Bosnia would allow you to take advantage of everything it has to offer. Renting a car can ensure you a worldly trip without ever having to cross a border or the hassle of continuous currency conversion. You can appease the history buff, artistic, adventurist, nature loving, beach lounging, and open-minded culture absorbing individual that you are all in one trip. 

So when you decide to volunteer abroad Bosnia, make sure to stop by the fountain on the side of Sarajevo’s Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque; legend states that whoever drinks from this fountain is destined to return, and you will want to ensure a second trip to Bosnia by any means necessary. Located at the center of the Globe, the world in one place – it’s no wonder they call Bosnia the heart-shaped land.